Rap House – A Volunteer’s Story
I first came across the RAP House when my boss suggested we get involved in the community. I had always wanted to get involved in something meaningful and his encouragement was the tipping point.
“It’s a great way to network and give back”, he said. This made sense, so I wanted to seek out a cause that meant something to me. After researching several organizations, I decided to call the RAP House. I had no idea how I could help or what I had to offer, but I called anyways.
My first visit to the youth shelter was emotional and eye-opening. I felt a sense of trepidation as I walked through the doors. I didn’t know what I would see or how it would affect me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. As Heather walked me about, she gave details about who donated what piece of furniture, and who helped paint which room. I could see how much love and effort had gone into creating this humble space. It was inspiring.
We toured the kitchen, the office, the playground, etc. It was when we came to the recreation room that I suddenly stopped. There were kids in that room. Shouldn’t they be at school? One of them was lying on the couch; a young girl, perhaps 14 years old. She glanced over, tired and ambivalent, as I looked at her. When we continued, I learned that she had been hospitalized the previous night due to complications with her pregnancy. I wondered what she had been through in her life that brought her to this point and, more importantly, what the future had in store for her.
While driving home from the RAP House that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about that girl. I wanted to help her. I soon realized that I saw myself when I looked at her. Although not pregnant at her age, I was rebelling in full force. I ran away from home, experimented with drugs, dated older boys, amongst other things. I felt I had nothing to offer the world. I didn’t have a broken family. I had never been abused or neglected. I had no excuse for acting the way I did. Now, seventeen years later, I have a wonderful family of my own and a successful career. But, I had the benefit of a loving and supportive family that stuck by me and helped me get through the tough times. I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like for these children who don’t have that. Do they ever find their place in the world? I realized then that I had found my cause. I had to help these children.
Since my visit to the RAP House in early 2011, I have become involved with their annual fundraiser, the RAP River Run. What started with just a few passionate volunteers 5 years ago has become the premier 5k race in Pasco County. Since the start of this event we’ve raised over $300,000 for the RAP House and the race grown from 400 to 1,140 participants. I so am proud to be a part of this project! Giving our children a pathway of hope.
For more information about the RAP River Run or the RAP House, please visit www.rapriverrun.com
New Beginnings Citrus Success Stories 2012
New Beginnings recently assisted a 17 year old Citrus County youth with finding a stable location to reside upon turning 18 in less than 3 months. The youth contacted the shelter and asked to be admitted while seeking a solution to anticipated homelessness upon turning 18. He had been living with his mother who was struggling with her own issues of substance abuse, unresolved criminal charges, and frequent residential changes due to homelessness. While at New Beginnings, the youth was able to determine that residing with his mother was detrimental to his future and he worked with his counselor to gain admission into a GED program so he could finish his schooling. The youth identified an uncle out of Citrus County with whom the New Beginnings counselor was able to initiate contact on behalf of the youth. The counselor facilitated a dialogue between the youth and the uncle, and the uncle agreed for the youth to reside with him while attending GED classes and becoming an apprentice to the uncle’s plumbing business. The youth was able to move in with his uncle prior to turning 18 and was able to begin his adult life with a plan and goals for his future.
A 16 year old male youth was placed at New Beginnings after being removed from his home for alleged physical abuse. The youth had been the subject of multiple abuse reports over several years and the child protective investigators were finally able to establish a substantial case to remove the youth. The youth was placed in the program while an alternate placement was located where he could reside with his younger sibling. During his stay at the shelter, the youth frequently expressed feeling safe for the first time in his life, and was excited to have caring adults around him to meet his needs. He was able to initiate counseling and even established a mentoring relationship with one of the regular volunteers at the shelter. The youth was eventually placed in a foster home with his brother and was able to continue his counseling with an outside agency. Placement in the shelter allowed this youth an opportunity to adjust to a possible future in foster care, as well as gain a better understanding of how foster care works, the rights available to him, and what he can expect as a teen in foster care.
John and the New Beginnings Shelter
“John” entered the New Beginnings Shelter at age 17. His mother did not know what to do with him as she saw him using drugs and failing in school. John entered the shelter with resistance, but also wanted to get away from his family. Once he arrived, he had a quick turnaround. John realized and understood the help and counseling he was receiving was because people cared about him. During the stay, John decided that he was going to update a video on drug prevention to present to future youth at the shelter. John and his mother have agreed to speak at YFA’s upcoming Boots and Pearls Gala to talk about the progress they have made since becoming involved with New Beginnings Youth Shelter (one of three youth shelters YFA operates that make a difference for local youth).
New Beginnings Changed Mary’s Life
“Mary” recently contacted the New Beginnings Shelter to say “hello” to the staff that helped her 4 years ago. Mary was a foster child who stayed at the Shelter for several months. Since then, Mary has started attending college. Mary believes that she received the care and inspiration needed to move past her trauma of living on and off with her abusive mother and has been able to create a better future for herself. Mary may also become a future speaker on YFA’s behalf.
Thank you New Beginnings
New Beginnings is a shelter for homeless kids, court order kids and children like me in foster care. I’ve been in New Beginnings quite a few times and each time I learned something new and life changing. One thing I love about the shelter is Boots and Pearls ball. I’ve been two years in a row and it’s wonderful. The staff here helps you with your life problems. You can help in the kitchen making food, we go on outings to the movies and the aquarium. Being in foster care there’s always people in and out of your life, but at New Beginnings there’s always someone around to help and we can always come back and visit. The counselors here are wonderful. Everyday they invite you into their office and discuss anything you want to talk about. They help you find what you want to do in the future. I am glad to have the opportunity to be at New Beginnings.